Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs have their hands full with the contract negotiations with William Nylander and the future negotiations with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun (subscription required) writes that the team also will likely have issues with defenseman Jake Gardiner.
The scribe writes that while Gardiner has expressed his desire to remain with Toronto long-term and general manager Kyle Dubas has met up with Gardiners’ representative, Pat Brisson, it’s likely that Gardiner will have to wait until the contracts of Nylander, Matthews and Marner are finalized, which could edge him out if those players don’t take hometown discounts. Regardless, after Nate Schmidt signed for $5.95MM AAV a few days ago, Gardiner could get quite a bit more on the open market especially with so few quality blueliners available on the free agent market next season. He might be able to command $7MM per year. However, he will likely have to take less than $6MM if he wants to remain in Toronto.
- Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette writes that today’s game against the Boston Bruins will be the 10th game for rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi, signifiying that the team intends to burn the first year of the 18-year-old’s entry-level contract. While a few weeks ago, a move like this might have been in doubt, Kotkaniemi has shown considerable improvement over the past couple of weeks, making this move automatic for the team. He is averaging 14:04 ATOI and has four assists through his first nine games. Head coach Claude Julien compared him to Boston’s David Pastrnak at the same age. “They’re both guys who had to fill out and get stronger, but you can see the kill level,” said Julien. “With both players, you have to protect them a bit and that’s what I’ve done with K-K. It’s a little tougher when you’re on the road and you don’t get the last line change but he’s been in tough situations and he’s handled them well.”
- Helene St. James of the Detroit Free-Press writes that one of the biggest problems to the Detroit Red Wings dismal performance through the first 10 games of the season has been the play of some of the veterans, especially the performance of Justin Abdelkader, who not only is quite offensively with one assist in 10 games, but is also struggling playing his physical brand of hockey. “You want to physically be engaged every game,” Abdelkader said. “You look for hits, and they’re definitely harder to come by in this game now. But that’s a part of my game. I’ve felt really good — had a really good summer, good training camp.”
- In a mailbag series, NBC Sports Joe Haggerty questions whether Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is really a No. 1 goalie, pointing out that he struggles when he is used regularly, which forced the Bruins to sign Jaroslav Halak to a $2.75MM contract. A true No. 1 goaltender wouldn’t require a team to pay that much for a backup and play 30 games for him. Add to that that Rask is known to be a slow starter and really struggles when the defense in front of him isn’t at their best, Haggerty doesn’t believe that the team currently can look at him as a top-rated goalie.